Today Paramount Pictures announced they crossed the $1 Billion mark in domestic sales (after crossing $1Bil in int’l sales last week). Currently the #1 ranked studio (as they were in 2007), this is a turnaround for Paramount which rarely broke into the top 5 in recent years. However, changes are in store and it appears the studio is becoming more reliant on franchises (like Star Trek).
In a statement, Paramount Chairman Brad Grey stated:
It has been a wonderful year so far. As we look towards the rest of 2008, and into 2009 — when we will have Transformers II, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, G.I. Joe and NowhereLand starring Eddie Murphy, among others — we are as excited about the future as we are by reaching this milestone.
A future without Dreamworks – Paramount looks to its franchises
One of Brad Grey’s biggest moves was the $1.5 Billion acquisition of Dreamworks in 2005. However tensions between Paramount and Steven Spielberg (and his partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen) are leading to a dissolution of the partnership and exit of the Dreamworks team later in the year. Although it is still possible that Paramount will continue to distribute Dreamworks films, the studio will need to come up with more of its own content. Variety notes:
Paramount’s slate will not be affected until 2010. At that point, the studio would have to fill any void with more homegrown fare like the upcoming “Star Trek” installment and “G.I. Joe.” Par would also likely rely more heavily on its Marvel partnership to spawn franchises like “Iron Man.” As for DreamWorks’ box office contribution, Paramount has earned $930 million domestically so far this year; live-action titles from DreamWorks represent about 5% of that sum.
The loss of Dreamworks, combined with changing dynamics in the film biz all points to Paramount looking more and more to proven franchises in the future. In an article titled “Hollywood relying more on franchises” from last week in The Hollywood Reporter, the trade notes:
It’s All About the Big Tent Event. As studios trim their overall output–a move Disney publicly announced several years ago and its competitors have since followed–they’re more reliant than ever on big spectacles with blockbuster potential that are aimed at pulling people away from other entertainment.
Proven commodities, whether on the big or small screen, in comics or toys, will take precedence because they’re easier to sell than an unknown entity, and they are tie-in and merchandise friendly.
Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios have already announced an Iron Man sequel, along with superhero fare like Thor and Captain America. Also in the hopper for Paramount: G.I. Joe, Transformers 2 and the next Star Trek.
Evidence of Paramount’s growing reliance on franchises is already here. Within a couple weeks of the release of Iron Man the studio already staked out an April 2010 date for a sequel, before they even had a script or director on board. And even though they didn’t have the script until April, they didn’t let the writer’s strike stop plans to release Transformers 2 only two years after the first film. And for Star Trek, they are already thinking about the sequel, a year before that film is to be released.
Back to the future
So for Trek fans, this is all good news. Brad Grey (who hired JJ Abrams) is riding high. JJ Abrams’s star is rising within the studio. Studio buzz on the film remains high and homegrown franchises like Trek are becoming more and more important to the studio. The May 2009 Star Trek feature may be the first Trek film in over six years, but it looks like it could spark the beginning of a prolific period in Trek films like we haven’t seen since the 80s and 90s.